Opinion Column

Sounds like Pallister's in the race?

With Brian Pallister speaking out on the Bipole 3 debate, is this part of his re-entry into politics He admits to giving some thought to a run for the provincial Tory leadership.

With Brian Pallister speaking out on the Bipole 3 debate, is this part of his re-entry into politics He admits to giving some thought to a run for the provincial Tory leadership.


Brian Pallister says he's only "considering" running for the leadership of Manitoba's Progressive Conservative party.

But the former Tory MP and MLA sounds like he's already jumped into the race.

Pallister told the Winnipeg Sun he's taking a serious look at throwing his hat into the ring to replace outgoing Leader Hugh McFadyen and will make a decision very shortly.

"It's a decision that we're mulling as a family," said Pallister, who served as a cabinet minister in the former Filmon government in the 1990s. "It's not a decision I can rush into."

Pallister says the party is expected to establish rules and dates for the leadership race by late November. He says he'll have to make a decision shortly thereafter.

"I don't think you've got a lot of time after that," he said. "If you're going to do this seriously, the outreach exercise has got to begin in earnest fairly quickly in the New Year."

With the party's one-member-one-vote system, Pallister says he'll have his work cut out for him if he does decide to run.

"You can't just go to the union bosses and say I need your union boss support," said Pallister, already taking jabs at his NDP opponents. "You gotta go around to every Manitoban."

Pallister would almost certainly be criticized by his opponents for the years he served in the Filmon cabinet. McFadyen was roasted during the September election for his role as a back-room strategist with the Tories during the 1990s.

McFadyen and his campaign team did little to counteract the attacks, though, opting instead to distance the leader from his past.

Pallister said he would take the opposite approach and defend the Filmon government record.

"If you want to debate history, I'd put the Filmon government's record up against any NDP government in the province's history and I think I could come up a winner 20 times out of 20," said Pallister. "I'm not afraid of that - I won't back away from that."

Pallister, who made the jump to federal politics in 2000, says he'll debate the Tories' record in government - including what he calls historic progress on social issues such as mental health policies and domestic violence laws - with anybody, any time.

"Running away from your record and the fine traditions of the Progressive Conservative party makes a person I think look cowardly," said Pallister. "It's the best team I ever had the privilege of serving with."

Meanwhile, Pallister says he wants to tackle issues such as the provincial government's soaring debt, high taxes and wasteful spending.

"This province could be much better managed," he said.

"I see us vulnerable as a province when we should be feeling great about ourselves."

Pallister also says he'd like to see a province-wide referendum on the Bipole III issue to settle it once and for all.

Manitoba Hydro had planned to put new transmission lines on the east side of Lake Winnipeg but were later forced to switch it to the west side after the NDP government intervened.

Pallister said there still hasn't been a proper public debate on the issue, adding he believes Manitobans should decide the fate of the location of the line.

"A referendum gives the opportunity to the government to make their arguments," said Pallister. "It isn't the NDP's Hydro utility it's Manitobans' Hydro utility."

Sounds like this guy's rubber has already hit the road.